As a grazing animal, a horse’s teeth are a vital part of its body. Since horses have a distinctive dental structure, here are some amazing details you’ll enjoy knowing about their teeth as a horse owner or trainer. These horse teeth facts will help you better understand their dentition and how to identify dental issues in horses.
Number of Teeth of a Horse
Mature horses (about five years old) usually have about 36 to 44 teeth. Adult mares have from 36 to 40 teeth, and stallions have 40 teeth. Young horses have 24 milk teeth, consisting of 12 grinders or premolars and 12 incisors. Also, they have wolf teeth and canine teeth.
Functions of Different Horse Teeth
Horse teeth have different functions. A horse uses the incisor teeth majorly to cut food (like grass) when grazing. Also, it uses the incisor teeth to attack or defend against its predators. It uses the molars and premolars to chew food before swallowing.
Horses Grind Food in a Circular Motion
Unlike humans, horses don’t chew food in an up and down motion. They grind in a circular motion that may unevenly wear down the teeth. The pointy teeth will require filing (or floating) to avoid dental issues such as chewing difficulty, mouth sores, and injuries to other animals while playing.
Horse Teeth Have No Nerves
The nerves of a horse end near its gum line, so they hardly feel pain when you’re filing down their teeth.
Horses Begin With “Baby” Teeth
Horse teeth, as with humans, are in two sets throughout their lifetime. The “baby” teeth usually fall out when a horse attains five years. If these teeth don’t fall out themselves at this age, you may need a vet to remove them.
Horse Teeth Require Regular “Floating”
A vet usually sedates the horse to ensure they’re relaxed throughout the horse floating procedure. To keep the horse’s head up, the vet attaches a unique halter to a barn rafter and keeps its mouth open using a mouth speculum. You can use either a power tool or a manual file for flattening the high points of the teeth.
A Horse’s Diet Has Significant Effects on Its Teeth
The permanent teeth of adult horses are four inches long, though the full length isn’t visible when you open their mouth, as most of it hides in the skull bones and jaw. Under normal circumstances, the four-inch teeth should last about 25 years.
The usual circumstances include exposing the horse to different diets, such as herbs, leaves, wild grains, twigs, broadleaf plants, and grasses – not our standard menu of fortified hay and grain. Consuming these equine diets ensures that their teeth wear away the right way. Unfortunately, most horses are not experiencing this situation, causing their teeth to wear down abnormally. It can cause the teeth to form painful sharp hooks and the mouth to close improperly. You can solve these problems, and more others, through a professional “floating” and proper dental program.
Young Horses Also Need a Dentist
Young horses between the ages of two and four years undergo a transition of teeth as they gain about 24 permanent teeth within one and a half years! It’s essential to examine them. If the baby teeth take too long to fall off, it may take more time before the permanent ones replace them. Also, an improper fall out of the baby tooth may result in an impacted new tooth. An uneven eruption of the horse teeth or impacted teeth can lead to significant pain and uneven chewing. The baby teeth of young horses are softer, and unequal grinding can result in razor-sharp edges in the teeth. Dental treatment can eliminate these problems and prepare a foal’s mouth for adulthood.
Removal of Wolf Teeth Is Easier for Younger Horses
Just as humans have a wisdom tooth, the equine equivalent is the “wolf tooth.” This tooth mostly appears at the front of the cheek teeth, though it appears on both the lower and upper jaws of a few horses, and some horses never have it. There may be a tooth on the side of the horse’s mouth or both sides, with the teeth having multiple or single roots.
Sometimes, wolf teeth may fail to erupt fully or erupt in an unusual spot. When wolf teeth are left in, they can lead to biting problems, as they’re covered with a soft sensitive tissue layer and sit further inside the horse’s mouth. A vet should remove wolf teeth when a horse is between six months and one year old. The removal of wolf teeth is more convenient when horses are younger, as the baby tooth hasn’t started fusing to the surrounding jaw bone.
Common Horse Teeth Problems You Should Know
Dental issues in horses bring a worry to horse owners. You may need to consult a vet in extreme situations, as they can irritate the horse and cause constant pains. Some typical horse dental problems are:
Sharp Cheek Teeth
Sharp cheek teeth are the most common dental issue horses encounter. The upper jaw of a horse is thirty percent wider than its lower jaw. Also, its upper molars are fifty percent broader than the lower molars. The horse’s teeth grow all through their lifetime, and with uneven wear, sharp hooks and edges will occur, which can cut the tongue and cheek.
Shear mouth occurs when the width difference between the lower and upper jaws is significantly more than usual. The name is as a result of the sharp teeth looking like shearing blades. Old horses mostly experience this condition.
The uneven wear of a horse’s teeth causes the molar teeth to become wave-like, especially the fourth molar. In some cases, the horse’s teeth get worn to its gum level, allowing the opposite teeth to cut the gum and cause an infection in the bone.
Step mouth occurs when neighboring molars have different lengths. This condition is a result of the loss of a tooth and lack of wear of the corresponding opposing tooth, making it almost impossible to chew food.